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Clubfoot is a condition in which one or both feet are twisted into an abnormal position at birth. The condition is also known as talipes or talipes equinovarus.


True clubfoot is characterized by abnormal bone formation in the foot. There are four variations of clubfoot, including talipes varus, talipes valgus, talipes equines, and talipes calcaneus. In talipes varus, the most common form of clubfoot, the foot generally turns inward so that the leg and foot look somewhat like the letter J. In talipes valgus, the foot rotates outward like the letter L. In talipes equinus, the foot points downward, similar to that of a toe dancer. In talipes calcaneus, the foot points upward, with the heel pointing down.
Clubfoot can affect one foot or both. Sometimes an infant's feet appear abnormal at birth because of the intrauterine position of the fetus birth. If there is no anatomic abnormality of the bone, this is not true clubfoot, and the problem can usually be corrected by applying special braces or casts to straighten the foot.
The ratio of males to females with clubfoot is 2.5 to 1. The incidence of clubfoot varies only slightly. In the United States, the incidence is approximately 1 in every 1,000 live births. A 1980 Danish study reported an overall incidence of 1.20 in every 1,000 children; by 1994, that number had doubled to 2.41 in every 1,000 live births. No reason was offered for the increase.

Causes and symptoms

Experts do not agree on the precise cause of clubfoot. The exact genetic mechanism of inheritance has been extensively investigated using family studies and other epidemiological methods. No definitive conclusions have been reached as of the early 2000s, although a Mendelian pattern of inheritance is suspected. This may be due to the interaction of several different inheritance patterns, different patterns of development appearing as the same condition, or a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors. The MSX1 gene has been associated with clubfoot in animal studies. As of the early 2000s, however, these findings have not been replicated in humans.
A family history of clubfoot has been reported in 24.4% of families in a single study. These findings suggest the potential role of one or more genes being responsible for clubfoot.
Several environmental causes have been proposed for clubfoot. Obstetricians feel that intrauterine crowding causes clubfoot. This theory is supported by a significantly higher incidence of clubfoot among twins compared to singleton births. Intrauterine exposure to the drug misoprostol has been linked with clubfoot. Misoprostol is commonly used when trying, usually unsuccessfully, to induce abortion in Brazil and in other countries in South and Central America. Researchers in Norway have reported that males who are in the printing trades have significantly more offspring with clubfoot than men in other occupations. For unknown reasons, amniocentesis, a prenatal test, has also been associated with clubfoot. One international study published in 2004 reported that amniocentesis done at 13 weeks of gestation was associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of clubfoot. The infants of mothers who smoke during pregnancy have a greater chance of being born with clubfoot than are offspring of women who do not smoke.
True clubfoot is usually obvious at birth. The four most common varieties have been described. A clubfoot has a typical appearance of pointing downward and being twisted inwards. Since the condition starts in the first trimester of pregnancy, the abnormality is quite well established at birth, and the foot is often very rigid. Uncorrected clubfoot in an adult causes only part of the foot, usually the outer edge, or the heel or the toes, to touch the ground. For a person with clubfoot, walking becomes difficult or impossible.


True clubfoot is usually recognizable and obvious on physical examination. A routine x ray of the foot that shows the bones to be malformed or misaligned supplies a confirmed diagnosis of clubfoot. Ultrasonography is not always useful in diagnosing the presence of clubfoot prior to the birth of a child; however, ultrasound is increasingly used in the early 2000s to evaluate the severity of clubfoot after birth and monitor its response to treatment.


Most orthopedic surgeons agree that the initial treatment of congenital (present at birth) clubfoot should be nonoperative. Nonsurgical treatment should begin in the first days of life to take advantage of the favorable fibroelastic properties of the foot's connective tissues, those forming the ligaments, joint capsules, and tendons. In a common treatment, a series of casts is applied over a period of months to reposition the foot into normal alignment. In mild cases, splinting and wearing braces at night may correct the abnormality.
Another treatment for clubfoot is the Ilizarov frame, named for the Russian physician who developed it in 1951. The Ilizarov frame has been used in the United States and Canada since 1981. It consists of two metal rings that encircle the leg to be corrected, wires that attach the rings to the bone, and metal rods between the rings that can be extended like a telescope. The frame must be applied by an orthopedic surgeon. After a week, the surgeon begins to lengthen the rods, usually at the rate of 1 mm per day. The frame must be kept in place for several months. Although the Ilizarov frame is somewhat cumbersome, it has been reported as giving satisfactory results in straightening clubfeet, particularly those untreated in infancy.
When clubfoot is severe enough to require surgery, the condition is usually not completely correctable, although significant improvement is possible. In the most severe cases, surgery may be required, especially when the Achilles tendon, which joins the muscles in the calf to the bone of the heel, needs to be lengthened. Because an early operation induces fibrosis, a scarring and stiffness of the tissue, surgery should be delayed until an affected child is at least three months old.
Much of a clubfoot abnormality can be corrected by the use of manipulation and casting during the first three months of life. Proper manipulative techniques must be followed by applications of appropriately molded plaster casts to provide effective and safe correction of most varieties of clubfoot. Long-term care by an orthopedist is required after initial treatment to ensure that the correction of the abnormality is maintained. Exercises, corrective shoes, or nighttime splints may be needed until the child stops growing.


With prompt, expert treatment, clubfoot is usually correctable. One group of French researchers found that 77% of the children they followed over a period of 11 to 18 years had good results from nonsurgical methods of treatment combined with physical therapy. Most individuals are able to wear regular shoes and lead active lives. If clubfoot is not appropriately treated, however, the abnormality may become fixed. This fixation affects the growth of the child's leg and foot, and some degree of permanent disability usually results.

Key terms

Enterovirus — Any of a group of viruses that primarily affect the gastrointestinal tract.
Ilizarov frame — A device invented by a Russian physician for correcting deformities of the legs and feet, consisting of rings to be attached to the bone and rods extending between the rings that stretch the affected limb.
Intrauterine — Situated or occuring in the uterus.
Orthopedist — A doctor specializing in treatment of the skeletal system and its associated muscles and joints.



Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD, editors. "Musculoskeletal Abnormalities." Section 19, Chapter 261 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2002.
Hall, Judith G. "Chromosomal Clinical Abnormalilties." In Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, edited by Richard E. Behrman, et al., 16th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2000, 325-34.
Van Allen, Margot I., and Judith G. Hall. "Congenital Anomalies." In Cecil Textbook of Medicine, edited by Lee Goldman, et al., 21st ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2000, 150-52.


El Barbary H., H. Abdel Ghani, and M. Hegazy. "Correction of Relapsed or Neglected Clubfoot Using a Simple Ilizarov Frame." International Orthopedics 28 (June 2004): 183-186.
Gigante, C., E. Talente, and S. Turra. "Sonographic Assessment of Clubfoot." Journal of Clinical Ultrasound 32 (June 2004): 235-242.
Philip, J., R. K. Silver, R. D. Wilson, et al. "Late First-Trimester Invasive Prenatal Diagnosis: Results of an International Randomized Trial." Obstetrics and Gynecology 103 (June 2004): 1164-1173.
Souchet, P., H. Bensahel, C. Themar-Noel, et al. "Functional Treatment of Clubfoot: A New Series of 350 Idiopathic Clubfeet with Long-Term Follow-Up." Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, Part B 13 (May 2004): 189-196.


March of Dimes/Birth Defects Foundation. 1275 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY 10605. (888) 663-4637.
National Easter Seal Society. 230 W. Monroe St., Suite 1800, Chicago, IL 60606-4802. (312) 726-6200 or (800) 221-6827.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). 55 Kenosia Avenue, P. O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968. (203) 744-0100 or (800) 999-6673. Fax: (203) 798-2291.


Children's and Women's Health Centre of British Columbia. The Ilizarov Apparatus.
"Clubfoot." National Library of Medicine.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a congenitally twisted foot; see talipes.
2. talipes equinovarus.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

tal·i·pes e·qui·no·va'r·us

talipes equinus and talipes varus combined; the foot is plantarflexed, inverted, and adducted.
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


1. A congenital deformity of the foot, usually marked by a curled shape or twisted position of the ankle, heel, and toes. Also called talipes.
2. A foot so deformed.

club′foot′ed adj.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
A general term for a group of common congenital deformities of the ankles and/or feet, in which the foot is turned downward and inward, and which are usually present at birth; the defect may be mild or severe and may affect one or both ankles and/or feet; uncorrected CF may result in gait defects
Aetiology Hereditary and environmental factors; isolated, or due to various underlying disorders—e.g., muscular dysplasia, anomalous insertion of tendons, arthrogryposis, congenital constriction bands, in utero compression, CNS disease—spina bifida—poliomyelitis, Friedrich’s ataxia, Sheldon-Freeman ‘whistling face’ syndrome, Moebius syndrome
Management Orthopedic splints or casts to correct the foot position
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


Calcaneal valgus, calcaneovalgus, metatarsus varus, talipes calcaneus, talipes equinovarus, talipes equinus, talipes valgus, talipes varus, valgus calcaneus Orthopedics The most common congenital deformity of the foot, in which the foot is turned downward and inward; clubfoot is formed by a combination of equinus–plantar flexion of forefoot; calcaneus–dorsiflexion of forefoot, the calcaneus forms the plantar prominence; varus–heel and forefoot are inverted, plantar surfaces shifted medially; and valgus–eversion of forefoot and lateral facing of the plantar surface; a general term for a group of deformities of the ankles and/or feet that are usually present at birth; the defect may be mild or severe and may affect one or both ankles and/or feet Types Talipes equinovarus–foot is turned inward and downward; calcaneal valgus–foot is angled at heel with toes pointing upward and outward; metatarsus varus–front of foot is turned inward; uncorrected Cf may result in gait defects Etiology Hereditary and environmental factors; isolated, or due to various underlying disorders–eg, muscular dysplasia, anomalous insertion of tendons, arthrogryposis, congenital constriction bands, in utero compression, CNS disease–spina bifida, poliomyelitis, Friedrich's ataxia, Sheldon-Freeman 'whistling face' syndrome, Moebius syndrome Management Orthopedic splints or casts to correct the foot position.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

tal·i·pes e·qui·no·var·us

(tal'i-pēz ē-kwī-nō-vā'rŭs)
Talipes equinus and talipes varus combined; the foot is plantiflexed, inverted, and adducted.
Synonym(s): clubfoot, club foot, equinovarus.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
'There was a tremendous need for a facility which could offer various services for treating the clubfoot deformity under one roof.
Even though the literature has clearly identified vascular anomalies in patients with clubfoot, few studies have evaluated the clinical effects of this abnormal vasculature.
Clubfoot is a deformity in which the infant's foot is turned inward often to the extent that the plantar surface of the foot faces inwards or sometimes upward.
Inclusion criteria: Idiopathic clubfoot upto 1 year of age.
New Delhi [India], November 1 ( ANI ): President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday urged all to take a national resolve that by 2022, every child born with clubfoot gets access to treatment as soon as the condition is diagnosed.
Material and Methods: To evaluate conservative treatment by Ponseti technique in clubfoot, the study conducted was consecutive case series done in Orthopedics unit District Headquarter Hospital Dera Ismail Khan.
New Cumberland, PA, August 18, 2017 --( A global leader in the treatment of clubfoot, CURE International India announced today it has successfully opened clubfoot clinics in all 29 Indian states—bringing the country one step closer to eliminating clubfoot as a lifelong disability by 2030.
In a village in rural Liberia, a long and muddy road from anywhere, I came across a grandma, a mom and a baby daughter all afflicted by clubfoot. This is a common birth defect in which one or both feet are grotesquely turned inward.
Arthrogryposis is called an umbrella term because people with AMC can have a number of other diseases, such as a clubfoot, something that I have in my right foot.
She had clubfoot, low-set ears, micrognathia, and high palate.